Dangerous Compassions

Ming’s ancestors


Hello, how are you doing?  We’ve been going to cemeteries lately to honor the dead.  Tis the season!  We visited the ashes of Ming’s ancestors in Oakland, California.

content warning: death and more death

First we went to a cemetery with mausoleum.  I didn’t get pics of that.  But we walked around.  Ming told me stories of his peeps who were there.

Then we went nearby to a columbarium. It was my first time visiting a columbarium. I guess that’s when you bury ’em…in a column?

Ming's ancestors

At the columbarium, I thanked Ming’s ancestors for helping to form Ming and doing such a good job.  The lady whose ashes are there is famous as the first Chinese-American woman registered to vote.  Great grandmother?  Sounds great to me.

When I went to the cemetery mausoleum with Ming before, it was at the beginning of our relationship.  It was more something he was doing–I might have even stayed in the car.  I didn’t know we would end up getting married and spending our lives together.

So I feel different about his ancestors now.  More grateful and like our fates are entwined.  I’m ready to love his ancestors more personally now.


I liked singing in the columbarium.  The acoustics are special–somewhat echo-y.  They were informative to explore as I sang.

Please see this video.  It’s fun because you can watch Ming trying not to fall asleep.  He starts to fall asleep twice.

This is jai maa with more views of the place.  It was much larger than this.


Probably the most disturbing part was when Ming said, “You see right there, to your right.  That’s for the babies who died before they got names.”


Wow, how to make Laura-Marie jump.  I was sitting riiiiiiight next to it.

I was immediately flooded with the parent -grief, that deep pain of unjust, fresh loss.  Strange how I was seated right next to the mass ash grave for unnamed babies.  Yeee-ikes!  It touched at least three nerves, for sure.

  • mass grave nerve, pertaining to racism against indigenous peoples, especially at missions and boarding schools
  • I never had kids and my own possible miscarriage nerve
  • my mom’s pain about her miscarriage that I know about nerve

It was dreamlike to be in this space where Ming went many times as a child.  It informed his feelings about death, that he didn’t want to be stuck for eternity on a bookshelf.  I sing to Mother God and the people who are stuck in the bookshelf.

I can imagine saying to Ming, “Hey, dear.  Wow, I dreamed you took me to this freaky place where your ancestors’ ashes were stored along with the ashes of all these other dead people.  And it was fancy, scary, and very quiet.  What a weird dream, huh?”

This statue did not help.  Wtf.  To me this looks like a Halloween decoration that would be rejected for being too scary.


This ceiling is so beautiful.


This was a part of the columbarium that seemed for people who were less rich.

Ming's ancestors

‘They look like post office boxes,” I said.  “Return to sender indeed.”

Ming’s ancestors

Are Ming’s ancestors really there?  No, I don’t think death works like that.   I would say their spirit is elsewhere.

But the ashes are real.  Going to pay respects is a thing to do, and might be soul-nourishing, help move stuck feelings, and is an activity at least as valid as others.  And good for the end of October, as the veil grows thin.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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